Researcher Profile: Keyan Liu

We’ve written before about the fluid power research projects coming out of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. Ten new research projects have recently been selected for funding. One student benefiting from the funding is Keyan Liu, a student at the University of Minnesota who is working on the Free Piston Engine Based Off-Road Vehicles project.

Education and Career

Keyan has studied at multiple institutions throughout his academic career. He attended Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Shanghai Jiao Tong University before continuing his studies at the University of Minnesota’s Mechanical Engineering Department. Keyan plans to pursue a career in industry. More specifically, he wants to work as an R&D engineer in the manufacturing industry after graduation. Along this path, he would hopefully become an experienced engineer/leader of a specific product development division in 10 years and get to a technology-oriented management position (chief engineer/designer, etc.) in 20 years.

Current Research

His research in the CCEFP is mainly about the free piston engine. This is an engine that doesn’t apply a crankshaft. Instead, the motion of the pistons is directly controlled by the hydraulic force, and therefore the energy can be directly extracted as fluid power, realizing the function of an internal combustion engine and a hydraulic pump. With this combination, the power source can come in a more compact form with less inertia, which benefits the response time. Due to this reduced response time, the throttling can be reduced when adjusting the pressure and flow rate, giving the free piston engine good potential to be a high performance hydraulic source with high efficiency. Moreover, the FPE can take different types of fuel as the compression ratio can be changed without modifying the hardware. All these good features makes the FPE a perfect power source for off-highway vehicles.

Motivation for Choosing Engineering

Keyan grew up in a Soviet-style one-factory town, where essentially everything was built to serve the factory. From an early age, he understood it was engineering that made all the wonderful things around him possible: the giant railway system, the electrolytic cells, and the huge power plants. Life also taught Keyan that current engineering is far from perfect; people get hurt during work, environments get polluted, and product defects happen. The more he learned, the more clear it became that the science is there or almost there, but we don’t have sufficient people to understand and implement that science in industry, or simply give it a final push into reality. This is when he realized that becoming an engineer would help him to make a difference. It would keep good things happening in life and help them happen in a higher efficiency, while also protecting people from potential hazards by improving current engineering. And that is why he is determined to become a part of the bridge between cutting-edge science and good engineering practice, or as you all may know it, a good engineer.

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